Veteran Teacher Finds Increased Accountability, Motivation From Students Using IHT Heart Rate Monitors
The lessons that Charles City (Iowa) High School teacher Steve Stallsmith learned last spring have helped him create an engaging online physical education program that uses IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors to keep students active and accountable.
“Last spring, we just couldn’t make the students do the assignments,” Stallsmith said. “Now, with IHT and lessons as Google Docs, that has helped tremendously. This has saved us a lot of extra steps and we are going to do things.”
Plans for a hybrid program – where freshmen and sophomores had on-campus PE on Mondays and Thursdays and juniors and seniors came to PE on Tuesdays and Fridays – changed shortly after they began. Stallsmith worked quickly with his administration to add to his heart rate monitor inventory using direct budget funding so every student enrolled in his classes would have one to use in an online PE program.
Creating Student Accountability With IHT Heart Rate Monitors
Half of Charles City’s students have the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors this semester. The other half will have the monitors in the second semester. Students use their phones or Chromebooks to control their ZONE monitors using the IHT Spirit mobile app and complete workouts and assignments when they have time. Stallsmith’s students have recorded more than 1,200 sessions with the heart rate monitors over the first three months of the school year.
When they complete a workout, the IHT Spirit software delivers an email that analyzes the student’s session. The email shows:
- How many minutes the student exercised,
- How many minutes the student spent in each heart rate zone, and
- A graph showing the student’s heart rate throughout the session.
“It’s very easy for the students to fill out that form from the emails they receive after each workout,” Stallsmith said.
Providing students with the heart rate monitors successfully addressed several challenges Stallsmith saw in the spring.
First, students know they are accountable for the assignments.
“The accountability factor is the big decider in what we wanted to do,” Stallsmith said. “We couldn’t make them accountable in the spring, but now we have things in place where they can get things done and send the results.”
Students are exercising five days a week for at least 30 minutes every day. The heart rate reports, which Stallsmith receives via email, and the student-completed Google Docs provide the data.
“The reports are integral to what I’m doing,” Stallsmith said. “Kids ask me how I know what I know. ‘Well, I get your emails.’ That allows much better, much more real conversations. It surprises the students that we have this data, and that’s a good thing. It starts the real conversations we need to have with kids.”
Second, that accountability has led to a deeper level of student engagement. When they have questions, they reach out to him online or through their assignment document.
“I am having better, in-depth conversations with kids about things because they are more apt to ask a question either online or through the Google Doc than they would if we were in our regular class setting,” he said. "
“We have kids who saw what we were doing, that they could do things off-campus and just check-in with me,” he said. “They are getting things done very nicely on a weekly basis. They are exercising 5 days a week for 30 or more minutes every day and they have kept at it.”
Developing a Modern, Student-Driven Curriculum
Stallsmith first started using the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor in his PE curriculum in 2016. He saw student engagement soar and fitness levels improve. Until last year, students wore the heart rate monitors for lessons that varied from learning how to serve tennis balls to circuit training workouts. When the PE landscape changed last spring, Stallsmith adapted his curriculum knowing sport-based activities wouldn’t be possible.
“I want to instruct them on how to help them become healthy for a lifetime,” he said. “Today that means engaging them in activities that I didn’t think about before. That means giving them a curriculum that includes the things that they have been doing. I’ve never had a skateboarding curriculum before, but I do now.”
Stallsmith’s skateboarding unit – focusing on safety, balance and agility among other specific skills – came to be after a conversation with some of his most engaged students. Seeking student input has helped him on several levels.
“I wouldn’t have thought to do that before,” he admitted, “but that has really gotten students involved. And the more the kids are involved, the more they get involved. If you can do an activity, come and tell me and I’ll make a lesson. I told them if you want to learn about skateboarding, I’ll call Tony Hawk if I have to.”
Perfecting a Different Approach to PE
Charles City’s leadership acted quickly when Stallsmith approached them prior to the year for the additional heart rate monitors. He proposed making his online PE class a Zero Hour class – before the school day begins – to allow students more time to focus on their other academic subjects. The administration appreciated that.
Stallsmith misses the time he’d normally spend with students in class, but he knows that can’t be today’s reality.
“We have to take a totally different approach to PE,” he said.
And he had to take the different approach quickly. He ordered the heart rate monitors at the start of the school year and deployed them as quickly as he could do it effectively while converting his curriculum from on-campus to online at the same time.
“This has been like building an airplane while it’s in the air,” he said, noting that the process has been well worth it, both for him and for his students. “We’ve got a good set-up and it’s running well. I’m going to have more time to impact kids this way because I’m having more one-on-one conversations than I would be able to if I had 30 kids in my class at the same time.
“PE doesn’t have to stop,” he said. “We are working more on individualized fitness plans, and IHT helps with that. The kids are really engaged and that helps us get from Point A to Point B to Point C in our program development.”